"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion) endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His lovingkindness endures forever." Psalm 136:1-2
Who taught you how to praise God? If you grew up in a Christian home, attending church every week, chances are you learned your praise habits from your parents. I am a firm believer that our children need to see us praising God, studying His Word, serving Him, crying out to Him in times of distress, and thanking Him in the good times. In other words: Our children need to see our faith in action in order to rightly respond to God in their own lives.
Psalm 136 is a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving the people used as a call to worship at Passover. They were praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He had done. Many churches still use this Psalm as a congregational reading during liturgical services. The Psalm can be broken up into five sections, each representing an aspect of God's eternal love and how He has shown it in the past. Looking back at God's past faithfulness enables us to praise Him in our present circumstances.
Verses 1-2 of this Psalm establish God as Lord and God of gods. The people knew other nations had their gods, they had even participated in worshiping those gods and been punished for it. Speaking to the Corinthians about idols Paul said:
"We know that 'An idol is nothing at all in the world' and that 'There is no God but one.' For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:4b-6
A proper view of God prepares us for proper praise of Him. We all have idols in our lives; people, possessions, or positions we place before God. The very first commandment God gave says:
"I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:3
We have all been brought out of slavery if indeed we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Jesus said:
"Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:34-36
Looking back at what God has set us free from should always lead us into worship of our God! We can be thankful Jesus has set us free.
The refrain of this Psalm: "His lovingkindness endures forever" is translated "mercy" in the KJV. God's mercy is an expression of His great love for us. In His mercy, He spares us from the punishment we deserve. Paul told the Ephesians:
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desire and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:1-9
Proper understanding of God's rich mercy and abounding grace toward us, propels us into proper praise of Him. We can be thankful God is rich in mercy and grace. We can be thankful His mercy and grace are endless toward all who believe. We can be thankful God's love never quits, He never gives up, He continues to pursue. We can be thankful He did not leave us in our fallen, sinful state.
Verses 3-9 begin the five sections of this Psalm. These verses declare God as Creator. God created all things through Jesus. John tells us:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him, nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind."
It was when Adam and Eve became unthankful for what God had given them that the sin of disobedience set in and God dispelled them from His presence. Yet God will one day redeem all of creation and bring all into the freedom Christ bought on the cross.
"For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies." Romans 8:19-23
God created all things for His pleasure and glory. He created human beings in His image to care for the rest of creation and glorify Him as we do. We should be thankful for all God has given us and care for it properly. Proper care of creation promotes proper praise of the Creator.
We can be thankful God is our Creator. We can be thankful God has given us everything we need for life. Not only physical life but also spiritual life. Peter declares:
"His divine nature has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4
We can be thankful Jesus saves us from the corruption of this world.
The second section of this Psalm is found in verses 10-12. Here we see God as our Great Redeemer. The Psalmist recounts God's mighty and miraculous rescue of the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. He has rescued us all from the captivity of the Evil One. Paul told the Colossians:
"May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins." Colossians 1:11b-14 NLT
"We know that God's children do not make a practice of sinning, for God's Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God." 1 John 5:18-19
Proper understanding of Satan's prowess promotes proper praise of God's power to save. We can be thankful God is all-powerful. We can be thankful Jesus overcame Satan on the cross. We can be thankful we overcome by His blood and our testimony of what He has done for us!
Verses 13-16 depict God as a shepherd. This is a picture of God used many times in Scripture. A shepherd cares for his sheep in the most tender of ways. He walks beside them. He leads them to good pasture and streams of water. He searches for them when they are lost. He brings them back to the flock. He protects them from harm. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in John 10:
"I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don't belong to him and he isn't their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he is working only for the money and doesn't really care about the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, just as My Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice My life for the sheep." John 10:11-15
We can be thankful we have a Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us. Proper comprehension of Jesus as our Good Shepherd gives passage into proper praise of Him as our Savior.
In verses 17-22 we see God as our Victor. Just as He led the Israelites through the wilderness and into the promised land, so too He leads us through this world and one day will transport us into heaven. In Romans 8:37 Paul proclaims:
"No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."
We can be thankful Christ loves us and gave us overwhelming victory over all troubles, trials, and tribulations.
Again in 1 Corinthians 15:17 Paul proclaims:
"But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
We can be thankful we have victory over sin and death through Jesus.
And earlier in 1 John 5 we read:
"For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5:4-5
Proper belief in Jesus as Savior precedes proper praise of our Triune God.
The final verses of Psalm 136 unveil God as our strength and deliverer. He remembers our weakness. David wrote:
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; then the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts.: Psalm 103:13-18
We can be thankful that God remembers we are only human and has compassion on us. We can be thankful God not only gives us strength but that He is our strength. Psalm 46:1 declares:
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."
And Paul tells us:
"For in Christ lives the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority." Colossians 2:9-10
We can be thankful We are made complete in Jesus. We can be thankful God delivers us from the enemy through our union with Christ.
Sometimes that enemy is ourselves. We need deliverance from a life of complacency, a life of disobedience, and a life of lackluster service to God. Just like the Israelites we often turn away from God, going our own way, forgetting God is to be first in our lives. We take our eyes off Jesus and stare at the things of this world instead. The more time we spend staring at the world the more we become like the world. This is when God lovingly disciplines us bringing us back into right relationship with Himself. The writer of Hebrews tells us:
"But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way." Hebrews 12:10b-11
We can be thankful God loves us enough to discipline us.
Proper knowledge of God's discipline produces proper praise of Him for His everlasting love.
How do you praise God? For what do you praise Him? What can you do to ensure you enter into proper praise of Him?
Praying we all acknowledge God as our Creator, Redeemer, Shepherd, Savior, Strength, and Deliverer. May we all learn proper praise of our Mighty God!
Untill next time keep gathering manna, growing deeper, and gaining intimacy!
God bless and keep you,